Starting to really enjoy the service I’m getting from shoyeido.com and essenceoftheages.com. As has been intimated, I’ve had (or still continue to have) trouble with one or two of the other places mentioned, but rather than focusing on that, I’ll mention some of the gems that have arrived in the mail recently.
Essence of the Ages have sales every month on various items and already I’ve benefitted from two of them. The one in particular is my first (well, first concentrated) step into Tibetan incense with the purchase of The Dhoop Factory gift box (scroll down to bottom). My experiences with Tibetan incense have been few and I barely remember them as none had been particularly positive, but this gift box has some of the most amazing Tibetan dhoops I’ve had the pleasure of burning. Several of them remind me of being up in the Sierra Nevadas in terms of a very fresh, cool, evergreen-ish merging of herbs, like a campfire in the mountain air, in particular the Sauna Sticks and Alpine blends, which only discipline made it possible for me not to burn every one in the box. The two blends with agarwood in them, Agar 31 and the bigger Medicine Buddha, have that sort of sour-ish aloeswood scent I tend to really like in incense. Lawudo and Abhisek are also really nice, in fact only the Ganden and Lhasa blends reminded me of the more typical tibetan blends I remembered. Even though it’s not on sale anymore, it’s still a great deal for the money.
Shoyeido has a coil incense series (also available in sticks) called Horin that I’d say is their best line after their expensive Premium series, in fact almost all five scents are becoming fast favorites. The cheapest brand Nijo is fabulous in its own right, a sort of floral/vanilla/sandalwood type of combination that make up the blue coils. The second brand, Hori-kawa, is more of a spicey, cinnamon-balanced sandalwood blend, a really astonishing bouquet that never fails to enliven the atmosphere. The next three move from a sandalwood to an aloeswood base. Gen-Roku is an incredible aloeswood based coil, almost mysterious in its scent, one that blows me away every time I walk into its cloud with its subtlety. I’ve only checked out sample sticks for the last two blends, as both are starting to get very expensive. The fourth, Muro-machi, might have impressed me the least of the five, but it’s likely more my error than anyone else’s as I don’t remember the strong aloeswood hints to it that would have obviously been there. And of course, the regal entry of the whole line, the venerable Ten-Pyo, the stick with kyara in the blend. Absolutely incredible stuff, as is everything with kyara in it, I only hope the pocketbook allows me to pick up some stock on it some day soon. As a comparison, the retail price for 10 coils or 80 sticks (20 stick packages are also available) goes $19.95, $29.95, $39.95, $59.95 and $99.95 respectively.
Also picked up a few curiosities, Nippon Kodo’s Cafe Time cones of Cassis and Mocha. Pretty pricey cones considering the short burn time and the 10 cones for $7, but both are really nice, especially the Cassis (black currant), which couldn’t have lasted long enough. Also grabbed a roll of Kokonoe Koh (second to last on page) from Baieido as it was supposed to be the blend I was given a sample of from another supplier. It has been at least a month since I’ve gotten that sample and appear to be no closer to the answer, Kokonoe Koh was very nice but seemed to be a less deluxe version of what I’d gotten. Oh well, I guess this is one company I’ll be forced to give up on even though I’d honestly rather not. Picked up a box of Shoyeido’s Xiang-Do Forest which was my favorite of the sample pack I tried. This pressed line of incense is rather nice stuff, but a bit pricey for the burn time (maybe 15-20 minutes a stick). I bought it mostly because it reminded me of a (pine, forest) stick I liked as a teenager.
Also grabbed a gift box of Nippon Kodo’s Kyara Taikan. NK are a bit liberal in their use of the word kyara in their blends, in that if there actually IS any kyara, it’s just a hint. However, this appears to be their top line incense, or at least one of them, and there is indeed a slight hint of majesty in them, an undeniably wonderful and rich aloeswood blend. The sticks, at least in the gift box, are short, so they go very fast.
Also managed to finish off, by way of the June Essence of the Ages sale, the Nu Essence Resin line, which I hope to feature at some point here, as it’s strong through the entire line. There appears to be 22, which would match up nicely with the greater arcana.